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Chris Culliver’s remarks yesterday to Artie Lange bring back the echoes of Garrison Hearst’s anti-gay remarks of a decade ago, but unlike Hearst, Culliver chose a far larger stage upon which to express himself, and is now just beginning to face the resultant backlash.
Culliver seemed to stun comedian Artie Lange in response to a question about whether he would be comfortable with a gay teammate with this response:
“I don’t do the gay guys man. I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.
“Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah … can’t be … in the locker room man. Nah.”
[RELATED: Culliver wouldn't welcome openly gay player on 49ers]
Culliver also suggested that homosexual athletes keep their sexuality private until 10 years after they retire, thereby undercutting the team’s stated stand against anti-gay bullying.
Thus, a firestorm is started.
Culliver’s statements do not seem to be the result of an ambush, at least not based on the audio of the exchange. Thus, it is more likely that he believes what he said as opposed to misinterpreting the question.
And clearly, the 49ers weren't in the mood to give Culliver the immediate benefit of the doubt, issuing a statement that read:
“The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris. There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”
People will be reminded that other 49ers, including Culliver’s secondary mate Donte Whitner, spoke in support of any gay teammate, saying, “I think it's great for people to be who they want to be.”
And then an argument will ensue over whether this is a full-on team distraction, or just a momentary irritant. That will happen alongside a debate about whether Culliver understands the dynamic of the city in which he works, which sort of belies the point that location doesn’t really matter.
Either way, in what was supposed to be a relatively quiet Super Bowl, we have now had four major talkers in less than a week: the Tim Brown-authored “Bill Callahan Threw The Super Bowl” story, the Randy Moss “I’m The Best Receiver Ever” story, and the Ray Lewis "Deer Antlers" story.
[RELATED: Kwame Harris responds to Culliver's comments]
All four have tested the theory of how long disputative stories resonate during Super Bowl week. So far, the Brown story lasted two days, the Moss story barely one and a half, and the Lewis story is still percolating, with the likelihood that it will die down as game anticipation rises.
But Chris Culliver has an apology to produce, because he works for a company that was the first in the NFL to record an “It Gets Better” public service announcement decrying anti-gay bullying. Because he stirred up a national story five days before Super Bowl 47. And because wrong is just plain wrong.
And, here it is:
"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."